What makes a Good Story?
Ask a hundred people and you’ll get a hundred different answers. Character. Plot. Compelling prose. Action. Tension. Conflict. Danger. Theme. Out of those hundred answers, every single one is correct, for there is not a defined model at which everyone can point and say, “Yep, that’s it.”
There are examples, of course. Each classic from Steinbeck’s or Hemingway’s or Shakespeare’s collection can demonstrate one way of creating a good story. Best selling authors like James Patterson or Dean Koontz have developed their own model, and yet neither are so universally loved that they can represent the archetype of a Good Story.
Two of the most successful works of the modern era, Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey, were so poorly written—from the standpoint of compelling prose—as to be all but unreadable, however each has sold millions of copies and have been spun off into movies and action figures and t-shirts.
Author Matt Hilton writes action scenes the way a monkey paints a wall, and yet he has six or more novels on Barnes and Noble shelves. The writing of James Patrick Hunt is so bland, the ingredient list on a can of soup holds more tension, but Hunt has over a dozen novels published through a mainstream house.
They found the magic formula.
I take great pains to craft every sentence. I make use of symbols to create a sense of mood. I “play act” dialogue in my head until the speech becomes as real as speech can be in a novel. I find ways to spark up descriptive sentences to avoid bland vanilla writing. Point-of-view is examined in depth. Adverbs are hunted down and killed with extreme prejudice.
And then I see the commercial success of a head-hopping, adverb-abusing, weak-voiced, was-describing piece of shit and I just want to go ber-SERK.
Where’s that secret formula? Somebody needs to fork it over because it would sure save me a lot of time.